Ken Sweet of Deering dives to score during the first quarter in the Thanksgiving Day football game with Portland High School.
By Tom Chard
PORTLAND — As Thanksgiving Day game performances go, Kenny Sweet’s would be hard to beat in the long history of the Deering-Portland rivalry.
Sweet, a senior quarterback, scored three touchdowns and passed for one to lead Deering to a 28-14 win over Portland in the 101st game Thursday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Sweet carried 22 times for 249 yards on a sun-splashed, mild day, one of the warmest on the holiday.
And for a curtain call, he scored on an 81-yard run with 2:03 remaining.
“Winning the Turkey Day game is a great way to end my senior year,” said Sweet. “It was a fun game to play. We knew it was going to be a battle. It was a 7-7 game late in the third quarter. Portland fought hard and didn’t give up. We knew they wouldn’t.”
Sweet, a running back, moved to quarterback late in the third game of the season when Mike Marzilli, the junior starter, got injured. The offense became centered around Sweet taking the snap in the shotgun and running with the occasional pass.
“I really couldn’t throw the ball last year,” said Sweet. “I had to work on that.”
Sweet’s 28-yard scoring pass to Ricardo Delgado early in the fourth quarter made it 21-7.
“It was a wobbly pass. Ricardo had to leap for it,” Sweet said.
It was Deering’s third straight win on Turkey Day and 10th in the last 11 games. Portland leads in the series that began in 1911, 54-40-7.
Deering’s win took a lot of sting out of the regular season that saw the Rams (4-6) lose their first four games before winning the next three and gaining the No. 8 slot in the Western Class A playoffs.
Deering last played 31⁄2 weeks ago, losing to Cheverus 49-0 in the quarterfinals. Other than the penalties – more than 200 yards combined – the Rams looked like they didn’t skip a beat.
“The kids maintained a great attitude,” said Deering Coach Jon Gallant.
“We gave them some time off but when they came back, they were ready to go. We took advantage of it and relished it. This game can make or break your season.”
As for Sweet’s performance, Gallant said: “Kenny loves the game and plays with passion. When you have that, good things happen.”
Portland (6-5) was hoping to cap off its comeback season with a win, but was slow out of the gate and never showed the balanced offense it had in the regular season by winning big games, including a playoff victory against Windham.
“We just kind of kept stalling,” said senior Nick Volger, who led Portland with 68 yards on 13 carries. “Not playing for a couple of weeks, I think hurt. We tried some new formations. They just beat us.”
Defensively the Bulldogs couldn’t stop Sweet and the Rams’ offense.
“We knew we could get the edge (corner),” said Sweet. “Our guy was getting the block. I couldn’t have gained the yards I did without my line. They did a great job.”
Deering took a 6-0 lead on Sweet’s 6-yard run with 44 seconds left in the opening quarter. Jacob Coon booted the point after.
Portland tied it with 25 seconds left in the half when Joe Nielsen made a nice grab in the back of the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Ryan Ruhlin, the Bulldogs’ sophomore quarterback.
Deering netted some big yards after a short Portland punt, which came after a blocking- from-behind penalty late in the third quarter forced the Bulldogs into a second punt.
On first down, Sweet ran off tackle, found an opening in the second tier and went 52 yards for the score to make it 13-7 with 13 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Sweet’s touchdown pass to Delgado with 7:48 to go put Deering in the driver’s seat, 21-7.
Portland’s 112 yards in penalties set it back time and again, but none was more costly than the holding penalty that wiped out a 62-yard scoring run by Jayvon Pitts-Young in the fourth quarter.
“That would have made the score 21-14 with six minutes to go,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman. “I have to bite my tongue but wow, there were some tough calls out there.
“On our first play of the game, we had a motion penalty. The field position hurt us the whole game so we couldn’t throw. We have a lot of young kids. Hopefully they’ll learn from this.”
The Bulldogs inserted senior linebacker Tate Gale into the game with time winding down. Gale scored on a 31-yard run with a minute to go.
The Thanksgiving Day’s traditional three individual trophies were handed out on the field after the game.
Sweet won the Merv Kilgore Trophy as Deering’s MVP. Gale won the Vinnie Allen Trophy as Portland’s MVP and Deering senior lineman John Deloach received the James Banks Unsung Hero Trophy.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Nick Volger, playing his final game for Portland, attempts to elude a tackler at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Deering won for the 10th time in the last 11 games.
Kenny Sweet, who carried 22 times for 249 yards for Deering, is hit by Tate Gale of Portland, right, while trying to leap over Dominic Fagone of the Bulldogs. Deering won 28-14 in the annual Thanksgiving game.